Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Doctrine of the Trinity

I read a daily devotion from Father Richard Rohr which is delivered by email. Today he includes this wonderful poem from Meister Eckhart. What a fabulous doctrine of the Trinity!

Laughter, Liking, Delighting, Loving
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Let me share an astounding bit of poetry from Meister Eckhart, the wonderful fourteenth-century German Dominican mystic:
Do you want to know
what goes on in the core of the Trinity?
I will tell you.
In the core of the Trinity
the Father laughs
and gives birth to the Son.
The Son laughs back at the Father
and gives birth to the Spirit.
The whole Trinity laughs
and gives birth to us. [1]
God has done only one constant thing since the beginning of time: God has always, forever, and without hesitation loved “the Son”—and yes, you can equally and fittingly use “the Daughter”—understood in this sense as creation, the material universe, you, and me. The quality of the relationship toward the other is the point, not gender or even species.
God cannot not love God’s self in you (see 2 Timothy 2:13)! The “you” that holds the indwelling Spirit, which many of us call the soul, is always considered eternal and intrinsically good because of its inherent connection to God.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Report to the Presbytery, September 27, 2016

Financial Planning requires good communication!

Several different financial reports were distributed to the September 27 meeting of our Presbytery, including a First Reading our 2017 Presbytery Budget. I would like to talk about money for a moment.

Per Capita Assessment: Per Capita is a very dependable and important source of income from our congregations to the presbytery, the synod and the Office of the General Assembly. But I must share with you some difficult conversations which we have had at our Administration Committee. Because Per Capita is such a precise formula, we would like to think that it makes our budget consideration easy. Just plug in the total Per Capita assessment for the year; we know that number. The problem is that we do not receive all of our Per Capita from our churches, and we do not know how much we will receive. So the 2017 Budget has an income number for Per Capita that is only 86% of the total Per Capita for our presbytery, this is the percentage we actually received from our congregations the previous year.

There is a report on 2015 Per Capita giving in your Presbytery meeting papers. Of course, we are grateful to the 33 congregations that contribute their full Per Capita. You will also see there are a number of congregations that do not contribute their full Per Capita. The problem is that not one of the congregations who were not able to contribute their full Per Capita actually communicated that fact to us in 2015. This makes our financial planning very difficult.

I believe this is a very healthy presbytery; there are very good and trusting relationships among us. We know each other. We want to be connected. Please communicate with us. I encourage your session to have a conversation about Per Capita, and please make a commitment to it. Please communicate your intention to us! This is doubly important since our Presbytery is committed to contributing our full Per Capita contribution to the Synod and the General Assembly whether or not we receive it from our congregations. This creates a significant deficit for our presbytery.

Mission Support: As you know, our Presbytery is not only financially supported by Per Capita but also by your Mission Support. Unlike Per Capita, we do not define the contribution amount. This is fully a session responsibility. It is the area of Mission Support that we are seeing the great shift that is changing the whole church.

Shared Mission Support: We have congregations that continue to be generously committed to Shared Mission Support. Thank you! Our Presbytery has approved an 80/ 20 sharing percentage. If you make a Shared Mission gift, 80% is used to support the Presbytery; 20% is used to support the General Assembly Mission Agency.

Designated Mission Support for the Presbytery: We now have congregations that are moving away from Shared Mission support and are making what we call Designated Mission gifts in support of the Presbytery. Very simply these gifts to the presbytery are not shared. All of your Designated Mission gifts in support of the Presbytery are used in support of the Presbytery.

I am asking each congregation for three things:
Please support our Presbytery both with your Per Capita contributions and your mission support. Our Presbytery does good work, and the Presbytery is worthy of your support.

    Please understand our funding system and discuss your support at your session. If you look at our Budget proposal, I am asking you to study and understand Notes 1, 2 and 3 which I provided there.

Please communicate with us. Please tell us your intentions with both Per Capita and Mission support. Communication builds trust; communication builds community. Like every year, we will be sending out pledge forms to each congregation. Please communicate with us. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Directory for the Public Worship of God, 1645.

Our Presbytery will consider the proposed new Directory for Worship as an amendment to our Book of Order. The proposed Directory passed our General Assembly and will now be voted on by all our presbyteries. I have been reading and studying the new Directory, a task which sent me back to consider again the Directory for Public Worship which the Westminster Divines wrote in 1645. The Church of Scotland approved and widely used the Westminster Directory for Public Worship. Thus from the Church of Scotland, that Directory has been widely influential in American Presbyterianism.

It is a fascinating, intellectual exercise to consider the cultural and theological changes from 1645 to the present. This sentence is part of the section on the Lord's Supper in the 1645 Directory for Public Worship:

"The ignorant and the scandalous are not fit to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper."

Interesting discussion questions would be: Why do we not talk this way today? What changed and why?